Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Wessex, King George VI, Kings and Queens of England, kings and queens of the United Kingdom, Letters Patent 1947, Prince Edward, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II, Royal Prerogative
Part II of this topic on the titles of the Wessex family now turns to the Earl himself and his inheritance of the title Duke of Edinburgh the title his father, Prince Philip, currently holds. There are two camps concerning this issue.
Camp I: This group believes that the titles must follow the 1947 Letter Patent (LP) wherein when HRH The Duke of Edinburgh dies while the Queen is still alive the title will pass to his eldest son, The Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales will hold this title along with the others he holds until he becomes king. At that time these titles will merge with the crown making them available to be created anew. In the case of the title Prince of Wales, Charles, as king, can create his son, The Duke of Cambridge (the Duke of Cambridge will automatically inherit the hereditary title of Duke of Cornwall), The Prince of Wales any time he desires. Charles will also be able to create his brother, The Earl of Wessex, the new Duke of Edinburgh. If the Queen should die before the Duke of Edinburgh then Charles will be king and when Philip dies his title will automatically merge with the crown.
Camp II: This group believes that in 1999 Her Majesty bestowed on Prince Edward the title of the Earl of Wessex with the intent he would directly inherit the Duke of Edinburgh’s title upon his father’s death. This was the sole reason why Prince Edward was created an Earl and not a Duke when he married in 1999. Therefore when Philip dies his titles will go directly to Prince Edward instead of the Prince of Wales. This goes against the Letters Patent of 1947 that was issued when King George VI created Philip Mountbatten (ne Prince Philipos of Greece and Denmark) which leaves the title to the eldest son as is traditionally done. However, this camp believes that Her Majesty, as the Font of All Honors, doesn’t always have to issue Letter’s Patent to change things and that her word and will are sufficient to override the 1947 LP. If that is true then Edward will directly inherit the 1947 creation of the Duke of Edinburgh title.
What will actually happen remains to be seen. For a long time I was firmly in the first camp and felt that the 1947 Letters Patent will be followed and that the Prince of Wales will inherit his fathers titles and will not be able to create his brother the Duke of Edinburgh until that title merges with the crown. Now, however, I am questioning this position and I do think that since the creation and governing of titles is part of her Majesty’s Royal Prerogative which remains at her discretion, then her will may be sufficient and Letter’s Patent are not required.
But we shall see how this actually plays out. I personally hope the Duke of Edinburgh lives for many many more years in excellent health and that we do not have this question answered for many years to come.